Shoppers trying on purple, green and gold hats was what you expected to see the Friday before Mardi Gras. You also weren't surprised when boxes of beads flew down store aisles. This was shoppers last chance to cram into Europe's Finest and buy bags of Mardi Gras throws.
One guy said he was looking for "something unique, something original, something nobody else has."
Steve Stanek took it all in with a big smile.
"This is bizarre to see a place like this," the Chicago fireman said. "I've never seen a place like this before in my life."
Stanek is a Mardi Gras rookie. He was in town to visit family and enjoy some parades. He was a good example of how Mardi Gras in South Mississippi has grown in stature.
According to Manny Peixoto, "Mardi Gras is becoming so popular all over the country, it's unbelievable."
Peixoto owns Europe's Finest. He sells Mardi Gras beads off his shelves -- and off his internet website. This year, web sales made up 85% of his business. The web was so popular, its orders overwhelmed his staff.
"We just couldn't handle no more orders," Peixoto said. "We shut down the website about three days ago."
Mardi Gras is big business for more than just the beads' distributor. It's become a tasty treat for Glenn Mueller. Mueller's RPM Pizza group sells pizzas at most coast parades, and all along New Orleans' parade route. His staff will probably slice an extra 20,000 pizzas.
"It's sort of like seven days worth of sales in one day," he said.
Pizza and beads. It's all part of a South Mississippi carnival experience.
by Brad Kessie
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